Neorealism | Summary and Q&A

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August 6, 2020
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Noah Zerbe
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Neorealism

TL;DR

Neorealism is a theoretical approach in international relations that focuses on the anarchic nature of the international system and the pursuit of national security by states.

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Questions & Answers

Q: How does neorealism differ from classical realism in understanding state behavior?

Neorealism breaks from classical realism by attributing state behavior to the anarchic nature of the international system, rather than human nature.

Q: What is the main argument advanced by neorealism?

Neorealism argues that the international system is anarchic, and as a result, states must operate in their own interest to ensure their own national security.

Q: How does neorealism view the concept of power in international relations?

Neorealism argues that the concept of national security, which includes state capacity beyond just military power, is more important than narrow definitions of power.

Q: How does neorealism view the role of trust and cooperation among states?

Neorealism suggests that states cannot generally trust or rely on one another due to the self-help nature of the international system, leading to a focus on relative gains and the need for states to ensure their own security.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Neorealism emerged as one of the most influential approaches in international relations in the late 1970s.

  • Neorealism shares foundational assumptions with classical realism, such as the empirical nature of the theories and the belief that states are rational actors pursuing their national interest.

  • However, neorealism diverges from classical realism in its focus on the anarchic nature of the international system as the determinant of state behavior.

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